20 Items You Should NEVER Buy at the Dollar Store

If you get paper towels, dishwasher pods, and wrapping paper at these retailers, you may not get your money's worth.
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Man Checking Price

It's hard not to love the dollar store. How much damage can you do when most everything costs only a buck? And sometimes you can score great finds there, from greeting cards and vases to picture frames and gift bags.

But along with those treasures, you'll undoubtedly find junk, as a dollar price tag doesn't always indicate a good value. Not sure what to avoid at the dollar store? Then check out our list below of the things you should buy somewhere else.

20 Items You Shouldn't Buy at the Dollar Store

Medicine, Vitamins, and Supplements

Dollar-store health items can be of questionable quality and value. "Medicine, vitamins, and supplements should be of high quality when putting them in your body," says Kristin Stones, who writes for the personal finance site CentsandPurpose.com. "Even if you find brand name, the cost per item is much higher at the dollar store since the quantity is so much smaller."

SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Buying Guide

Pencils and Pens

Unless you find brand names, the quality of dollar-store writing utensils tends to be very low. "I find they break and run out of ink more often," Stones says.

Baby Utensils

The issue of safety comes up in the case of baby utensils. "The plastics in dollar-store products can contain harmful chemicals you do not want ingested by your sweet baby! Definitely not worth the money you'd save!" Stones cautions.

Cleaning Products

Be choosy with cleaning products, as some of the less popular brands can be a great value. However, when you see big brands, they're usually in smaller quantities. "If purchased at another store, you'd likely pay less per ounce!" according to Stones.

Hair Dye

Hair dye is already filled with chemicals, and risking dollar-store dye may not be worth it. "I'd be scared to know what is in the dye from the dollar store and wouldn't want that anywhere near my scalp," Stones says.

Phone Chargers

If you need a backup phone charger, you might be tempted to grab one for a buck. But Dustyn Ferguson of DimeWillTell.com cautions against doing so. "Chargers at the dollar store can be dangerous for your expensive devices as they are not certified and can cause shortages, which can ruin your device," he warns. And they don't typically offer as much charging power, which means even if they do work, they'll likely take much longer to fully charge a device.


Pregnancy Test

Pregnancy Tests

This is one of those times when accuracy really counts. An off-brand pregnancy test — or even an expired brand-name test — is not what you want when the results can be life-changing. Pay the price for a quality test from elsewhere.

SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Free Samples

Trash Bags

Dollar stores will bait you with brand-name trash bags, but if you break it down, you'll see you're paying $1 for a pack of two to three bags — and that's not worth it. "Usually the trash bags are cheap and tear easily as well," says Joy Hearn, an extreme couponer.

Hearn frequently discusses the reasons why most dollar stores are a waste of money on the Facebook page Cards and Clips, including that products tend to be trial and travel size. Depending on your needs, you'll almost always pay more in the long run at a dollar store.

Wrapping Paper

The price of dollar-store wrapping paper may draw you in, but don't count on the paper going very far. "A major mistake I saw people make during the holiday season was running to the dollar stores for wrapping paper," Hearn says. "Standard wraps are sold at or around 60-75 square feet which gives most the ability to wrap up to 10 medium sized gifts, 4 large gifts, and 20 small gifts."

You can't expect the paper at dollar stores to be of good quality — or a good value. "The wrapping paper sold in most dollar stores is sold at or around 25 square feet. You do the math," she adds. "Not only that, but the quality is usually poor, and the paper easily rips while wrapping."

Batteries

You get what you pay for. Oftentimes, dollar-store batteries are either already dead or won't last longer than a week. And if you do find brand-name ones, the odds are high that they'll be more expensive than if you just shopped at your local big box store.

SEE ALSO: What Brand Makes the Best Rechargeable AA Batteries?

Dishwasher Pods

When it comes to dishwasher pods, the dollar store probably won't give you the best bang for your buck. "Last year Dollar Tree began selling a 2-pack of Cascade dishwasher pods for $1," Hearn says. "The problem with this is in most mass retailers such as Target or Walmart a 14-pack of pods averages at about $4.50-$5.50. Buying 7-packs at the dollar store can mean you will overpay by $1.50-$2.50."

Paper Towels

If you're paying $1 per paper towel roll at a dollar store, you could actually be paying more. Not only is it a worse value, but the rolls aren't even the standard sizes sold at grocery stores or mass retailers.

Hearn is quick to point out that you can find better deals elsewhere. "You can easily get a 6-pack of paper towels for $4.99, which equates to about $0.84 a roll," she says. "Grocery and drug stores always have deals on a 6-pack of towels often at a price lower than $4.99."

Sandwich Bags

Sandwich bags can't do much good when they won't even close. "I've found that dollar store sandwich bags are supremely frustrating because they're flimsy and very hard to seal... shut. It's worth it to pay an extra dollar or two for better bags," says J.R. Duren, senior editor at HighYa.com.


Hammers in a Store

Tools

Cheap tools are best when you only need them once or twice. If you want instruments that'll last for years, avoid the dollar store pieces and buy some higher quality tools. "It'll actually save you money because you won't have to keep rebuying your tools," Ferguson points out.

Toys

Durability and dollar-store toys don't always mix. "I've bought toys here and there for my daughter, but I've found that the toys always break," Duren says. "Even though they're cheap you'll find that you'll end up with a random collection of mermaids missing their torso, little metal planes with missing propellers, and similar situations."

Crayons and Watercolor Paints

McKinzie Bean of MomsMakeCents.com says off-brand crayons and watercolor paints are a big mistake. "The crayons would barely color and the paint tins had hardly anything in them," she says. "Definitely skip these on your next trip to the dollar store and grab the real deal for a similar price at Walmart or Target."

SEE ALSO: How to Wash Cats, Pillows, and Other Awkward Items

Jewelry

There's a reason this jewelry is $1. It's poorly made, so often it won't last long before breaking. Additionally, depending on what it's made of, the materials can cause your skin to turn colors.

Knives

The odds of getting a good cut out of a $1 knife are just about as good as your chances of winning the lottery. Much like plastic cutlery, a dollar-store knife typically wears easily and rusts pretty quickly.

Fabric Softener Sheets

While it may be tempting to grab fabric softener sheets for $1, the boxes hold 10 sheets or less. "What most people don't know is that they can score a box at four times the amount, for the same price, at mass retailers such as Target and Walmart by simply using a coupon," Hearn notes.

Sunscreen

Peter Koch of DollarSanity.com is adamant: "You have no idea what it will do to you. You'll burn like you have no sunscreen applied. They often sell items that are close to their expiration date and sunscreen quality decreases over time. They aren't effective anymore."

Readers, what kinds of items will you not purchase from dollar stores? Let us know in the comments below!


DealNews Contributing Writer

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a New York City-based freelance writer specializing in personal finance, small business, general business, and travel. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Money, DailyFinance.com, Forbes.com, and many more.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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20 comments
Smwallis83
This article is so incorrect. The medication and pregnancy tests sold in any store are all held to the same standards. In fact, the pregnancy tests are what they use in clinics and most emergency rooms. The higher price in other stores is for convenience. The ones at the Dollar Tree don't come with with a way to collect urine directly on the stick, you have to pee in a separate container and then use the provided pipet to put it on the stick. They are just as accurate as the very expensive ones but much messier to use. Again with the medicine it is regulated just like any other medicine sold in America. However, it isn't always the best deal.
DeletedUser116978484
The buyer should always beware. At the grocery chains, in some trips I find 10% of the items ring at the wrong price, and almost without exception higher. Amazing that I can find that error on the last day of the weekly sale. That means 1,000s or 10,000s either didn't notice or they got it corrected for an individual who commented, but the chain never fixed. Walgreens seems to be plagued with pricing problems and if you ever mention it, they say "pricing is all done in Illinois; we can't fix it in the store", but they will (have to) correct the individual order. With 10,000 Walgreens, all charging an extra 1.00 for an item that 500,000 customers believed they were getting the sale price on - hey, that would be a $500,000 mistake in Walgreens favor. Do that weekly, and you have an extra $26M on the bottom line.

Maybe the sizing or quality is different at the Dollar Tree, but I have NEVER been overcharged; it's the same boring price each time.
DeletedUser116978484
Not every card is a winner, but the card is tossed as soon as the money or gift card is extracted. How much wrapping paper do I want of one pattern? How much wrapping paper do I want to store? Often I only need to wrap a few gifts at a time. And, the tissue paper is the least expensive of any store. 1 or more gift bags for only $1.
Each child was invited to more than 12 parties per year. My 401k would be far less if not for Dollar Tree. With three children, each of their birthdays, hospital visits and a few other occasions got balloons. Maybe the rich get ponies rides and clowns at their parties. Mine, got balloons that often lasted for more than a month.

I am not dubious or afraid of the drugs. I buy Dramamine/Antihistamine, 81mg aspirin and others. If something adverse were to happen at any of the big three chains, with 28,000 stores you'd hear about it fast. That is almost 6 times as many as Walmart. If something shady was happening with the drugs, we would know it.
DeletedUser116978484
For $1, the reading glasses I have on right now can't be beat anywhere. I recently bought 14 large (compression/vacuum) storage bags at Dollar Tree. My motorhome has extra blankets, towels and pillows for guests. Storage space in there is at a premium and these vacuum bags really helped. Nobody else has that size bag anywhere close to $1. I limit my shopping to Dollar Tree as I haven't found the same value proposition at the others. At Dollar Tree, I am not afraid to use the name brand sunscreen, the petroleum jelly, hand creams, a number of the cleaning products. Nothing wrong with the hair brushes, scrunchies, mirrors or nail polish remover. My children grew up on the zinc oxide/diaper cream.
DeletedUser116978484
When I see NEVER, I am NEVER surprised by the writing.

Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar. They total about 28,000 stores. Dollar Tree acquired Family Dollar, but the price model and merchandise has differences.

I think the writer did too much generalization and failed to acknowledge some products are consistently a bargain at $1.

Shoppers need to beware the price per unit can be higher than a store like Walmart. On the other hand, sometimes you only want 6 packages of peanut butter crackers - or your budget might only allow for these smaller purchases each month. The same is true for Costco. 35 cans of Coke may not always be the lowest cost per can available..who stops and does the math? And if you are on a budget, you probably don't want to buy 72 rolls of toilet paper all at once. If somebody is shopping near their house and doesn't have a car to get to Walmart or Costco, then $1 worth of toilet paper will suffice nicely for a trip.
MrF
I shop at the 99 cent Store and Dollar Tree weekly. I agree with most of the do not buy list.
I have found excellent deals on name brand house cleaning supplies and not a one was reduced in size. In fact many cleaning Items say 30% more on the packaging.
To say ALL their plastic bags are not worth it is a mistake as they sell many different brands and I have found some great 13 gal trash bags at 10 for $1 and not flimsy either. and good sandwich bags 50 for $1
In my opinion I don't think the author is a regular dollar store shopper. Go on a weekly basis and you will find all kinds of name brand deals. Today I found Triscuit Crackers Garlic Herb flavor for a $1 Ralphs is selling the same thing for $2.99 and Stacy's Pita Chips for a buck, much higher price in the grocery stores. Like anywhere you shop you gotta shop around for the deals.
jsmithdidnotrulez
The other so-called 'Dollar' stores are BS - stuff is always around $5. I never go to them if I can help it.
I ALWAYS check $Tree first before buying anything basic except for most of the stuff in the article. Its true about the cleaning stuff - all of them were watered down. But they are great with return policy - I exchanged them all with no questions asked. Kitchenware is great there, the $1 knife I bought there a year back still is in superb condition. The ex wanted all my kitchenware so I got some superb dishes from $T. Silverware nothing beats Wamma.
01100001
The best things to buy at the dollar store are cookies, spatulas and maybe sanding blocks.
Used to get sunglasses, but ever since exposed to actual nice sunglasses, I can't go back.
Kizzle
For low draw electronics like my razor handle or a remote, the alkaline batteries sold at Dollar Tree are just fine and last a while. This article does have some good points though.
ski522
So basically, after reading the article there is pretty much nothing you should buy at a dollar store?!?
zuma
Definitely do not buy medicine, phone chargers, odd sized batteries, sandwich bags or sunscreen. All are safety or health issues. I agree with Sheryl.
skaets
Tip; If you store fabric softener sheets in a gallon Zip-Lock freezer bag the softening ability and scent will last a lot longer.
MrF
I shop at the 99 cent store and Dollar Tree regularly and like any store some deals are better than others. Based on what I read the writer of this article is not a "regular" dollar store shopper i my opinion.
armandroid
Krowe I agree with you
PythonX
The only thing left are the mylar balloons. Frankly the only thing I ever find of interest in those places.
Krowe
I don't know what Dollar Store you're getting items from these items at our local Dollar Tree don't fit your discription. For example Fabric Softener Sheets come in boxes of 30, batteries last just as long if not longer than those purchased at Walmart and phone chargers work just as well if not better than those from big mass retailers. Sounds more like a pitch for Walmart and Target than an actual unbiased article and considering it clearly states you may be compensated by companies mentioned in the article chances are thats exactly what it is, a sales pitch.
Alligator
How about a "20 Items You Should ALWAYS Buy at the Dollar Store" article.
michael bonebright (DealNews)
If you're on a car trip with kids, a pit stop at a dollar store definitely beats raiding a random gas station for emergency supplies like diapers. And if you don't have easy access to a bigger store like Walmart, dollar stores are great!
ceto
LOL... almost nothing left to buy...
Seriously, everything has its place and occasion. When there are needs for low requirements or limited budget or one-time use. Dollar stores are great place to save unnecessary wastes.
Squirrel
So, in other words, don't shop dollar stores.